In parts of Colorado’s North Fork Valley, it seems that everyone is an artist.
“When I first moved here, I would ask people if they were an artist,” says one Hotchkiss resident. “But now I just ask them what medium they work in.”
A visit to the Creamery Arts Center seems to validate that claim. This not-for-profit art center features the works of more than 70 local artists. The center, which is located in downtown Hotchkiss, showcases art in various mediums, from ceramics to oil paintings to wood sculpture. There is no charge for admission, and much of the art is for sale.
Named for the North Fork of the Gunnison River, Colorado’s North Fork Valley is best known for its agricultural prowess. Sometimes called the “Fruit Belt of Colorado,” the area is filled with vineyards, organic farms, orchards and other agricultural pursuits.
The valley is home to the small towns Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford. The scenic landscape here is diverse, ranging from fertile fields to lush hills and sweeping mesas. Perhaps there is something inspiring about living in this unique part of the state, for the region is rich in music and artistry.
The Creamery Arts Center celebrates that artistic tradition. The building itself is a work of art. Built in 1930 as a cooperative creamery for the regional North Fork Creamery Association, the building was renovated to become the home for a different type of cooperative – an artists’ collective.
The Creamery highlights the works of artists like Suki and David Strong. Suki is a nationally recognized clay and fiber artist, who has recently turned her talents to pastel painting.
“I fell in love with the immediacy and vibrancy of color and painting the landscapes where I live,” says Suki. “Colorado light on canyons and mountains, the golden autumns, blue winter days on our mesas intrigue me. I never run out of subject matter.”
David first came to Colorado as a clay artist in the 1970s, but since 1980 he has been a working studio potter in Cedaredge, Colorado.
Both he and Suki teach art classes to children and adults at The Creamery. The center offers a full year-round schedule of classes in several mediums. It’s not unusual to find Suki and her two dogs, who are popular attractions, teaching a classroom of young, developing artists.
The Creamery has several galleries devoted to rotating exhibits. One recent exhibit featured award-winning professional photographer Celia Roberts, whose black-and- white photography brilliantly documents the lives of America’s migrant workers.
The Young Artist Gallery is devoted to the works of artists age 17 and under. And if the art on display is any indication, the valley has some talented artists in the works.
One note, if you visit – don’t miss the restrooms. Like most things at The Creamery Arts Center, they are beautiful works of art.
If You Go
The Creamery Arts Center
165 Bridge St.
Hotchkiss, Colorado 81419
Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
North Fork Valley